The Monastery Route
The next itinerary starts from the Porta Rivera in the quarter of San Giovanni, and we are immediately in the heart of the oldest medieval quarter of the city, on the site of the fortified village of Acquli. The borgo della Rivera, renowned for its vegetable gardens and tanneries, welcomes us with the famous Fontana delle 99 Cannelle. Characterized by the two-toned red-and-white stone masks from which the water flows, it was built in 1272 by Tancredi da Pentima. Over the centuries, it has been restored several times. Tradition says that the 99 spouts represent the 99 founding villages. Opposite, we find the church of Sant Vito with its white façade clad in stone, enriched with decorations and a Romanesque portal. The church, built by the inhabitants of Tornimparte, was adjoined by a shelter for pilgrims and sick people and served as a leper hospital during the terrible plague in 1656. Walking along the old steep slope, we head towards the Capuchin Convent of Santa Chiara. Several vicissitudes caused the decay of the monastery that in 1800s was also used to house soldiers and horses. The monastery underwent numerous restorations through the centuries. The current structure dates to the 18th century, its interior houses several remains of frescoes. The place is particularly meaningful for the history of the city as the Acquili village is considered the first urban nucleus. A staircase adjoining the church leads to via XX Settembre. As we cross the street, after walking few metres, we reach via Santa Chiara d’Acquili, an old alley leading to the market square. Continuing for a few metres, we turn left onto via della Zecca, and we soon reach the Church of Santa Maria di Roio. It was built by the inhabitants of Colle di Roio in 1200s and it is one of the most ancient churches of the city. The façade, clad in limestone and today incomplete due to the several collapses, is divided into two parts by a stringcourse, the lower part is defined by pilasters, while the central part houses the portal and the rose window that is considered one of the most ancient of the city for its rays in Burgundian style. The interior features a 17th century altar, a 15th century fresco in the sacristy and a Deposition by Francesco from Montereale. The square is dominated by the Palazzo Rivera and Palazzo Persichetti. Turning onto via Cesura, we access the quarter of San Pietro where we appreciate the monastery della Santissima Eucaristia also called monastery of the Beata Antonia. In 1349, the heirs of the rich merchant Giacomo Gaglioffi founded the monastery and the adjoining hospital. The somewhat unassuming structure houses a portal with pointed cross vaults and a refined stringcourse. In the mid-1400s, the building was donated to the Beata Antonia from Firenze who restored it to transform it into one of the most important monasteries of the city. Opposite the church, a small courtyard serves as an access to the 14th-century cloistered convent, with its cross vaulted ceiling and wall paintings, such as the stunning Crucifixion by Francesco from Montereale. Before leaving the monastery, we can appreciate the 14th-century frescoes inside the lodgings, rediscovered during the 1970 restoration. Once left the monastery, we recommend taking a peek into the captivating courtyard of the opposite Palazzo Fiori to appreciate he elegant renaissance design of the courtyard. Traversing via Sallustio, we turn onto via Angioina sided by ancient palazzos and buildings. Turning on the left, we continue along via del Bargello and then we turn onto via del Falco to reach piazza di San Domenico. The monastery and the church of San Domenico are the three most important architectural buildings of the city, whose construction dates to the early 1300s. the monastery is currently under restoration, but we can still admire the imposing structure of the church that, despite the severe damages caused the 1703 earthquake, still preserves striking one of the most important examples of Abruzzo gothic art. The high section of the 18th-century façade is incomplete, the architectural design of the imposing portal reminds that of the Holy Door of Santa Maria of Collemaggio. Noteworthy is the lateral façade of the transept with the 14th-centurt transept of French inspiration which reminds that the church was commissioned by the Anjou family. The majestic apse is divided into five sections, some of which have an octagonal design. On the western side is a striking protogothic portal in Burgundian style and featuring precious 12th-cdntury sculptural elements. The 18th-century interior is attributed to Piazzola, an architect from Milan. We turn onto via Santa Teresa and then onto via Coppito, old street of the quarter of San Pietro. We continue along the street to reach piazza San Silvestro, dominated by the striking chiesa di San Silvestro built between the 13th-14th century, and by the palazzos of the Branconio family who enriched it with works by many artists. The church is near the old city walls built in 1316 with its porta Branconi. The façade is dated 1350 and is covered in white and red stones, while its portal is similar to those of the churches of Santa Giusta e San Marco of mid-1300s. The lateral walls boast ogival windows, a 14th century tripartite apse, and a lateral portal. On the internal walls there are fragments of 14th and 15th century frescoes, most of which have been brought to light by the restoration of 1967 which eliminated the baroque additions. At the end of the left aisle is the 16th-century Branconio Chapel, once embellished by Raphael’s Visitation. The canvas was stolen by the Spanish occupation troops in 1655 and taken to the Escorial. Today it is kept in the Prado Museum in Madrid. We then turn onto via di Gignano and then onto via delle Stimmatine to reach the chiesa della Misericordia built in the 1500s and restored in the 1700s, on the site of an older church dedicated to St Peter. From piazza della Misericordia, crossing via Tre Spighe, we reach the Convent of Sant’ Amico of the Augustinian nuns. The external medieval structure dates from 1373. The façade features two stone portals, of which a 17th-century portal with a curvilinear gable and the other portal serving as an access to the courtyard opposite the church. The church is a precious example of a 17th-century church as it did not suffer any heavy damage after the 1703 earthquake. It houses stunning works of art such as the Madonna della Neve attributed to Giovanni from Lucoli, the Madonna con Bambino by Delitio and other precious paintings by the Cesura and Giordano. continuing along via San Basilio we reach viale Giovanni XXIII and the Piazzetta di San Basilio overlooked by the refined 18th-century façade of the convent. It is one of the oldest buildings in the city and for this reason particularly imbued with fascination and suggestion despite the numerous restorations throughout the centuries. The 18th-century interior has a nave flanked by chapels with a domed presbyterium. Recent restorations works have revealed some frescoes that show the rich painterly decorations of the old convent.